Information Sciences and Technology

IST Blue Band Silk Squad leader blends academic drive with performance passion

Jenna Fitzpatrick leads flag-spinning responsibilities during halftime drills at Beaver Stadium

Jenna Fitzpatrick leads her Silk section during a halftime performance at a Nittany Lion football game at Beaver Stadium. Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — After a year off the field during the pandemic, College of Information Sciences and Technology third-year student Jenna Fitzpatrick is happy to be back performing at Beaver Stadium. As a squad leader of the Silk section in the Penn State Marching Blue Band, Fitzpatrick blends her academic drive to earn a degree in cybersecurity analytics and operations with her experience with and passion for spinning flags.

“I’m so excited to be back in the stadium this year because it’s so surreal to be able to perform in front of 107,000 people again,” she said. “I look up and see the fans staring down and cheering, which puts such a cool perspective on Penn state football that not many people have.”

A member of her high school marching band color guard for three years, Fitzpatrick knew that she wanted to continue her experience in college and set her sights on the Blue Band.

“I went to the recruiting day for high schoolers during the Blue and White Game and I knew I wanted to audition,” she said. “I was lucky enough to make it my freshman year, and the rest is history.”

Now as a section leader, Fitzpatrick is responsible for her section during the halftime drill by helping with flags, getting equipment packed and handing new flags out during the game, giving her a different perspective on the band. Many of the skills she relies on to succeed in this role have been strengthened through the College of IST — especially the ability to work and communicate in groups.

“Each home game the Blue Band does a different halftime show, which is tough to do especially when having four back-to-back weekends at Beaver Stadium,” she said. “Having that skill to communicate and work in groups is vital, because no matter what, you’re only as strong as the weakest member. Helping and leaning on each other is key to get the best final product we can on the field at halftime.”

Conversely, Fitzpatrick’s experience as a leader in the Blue Band has benefited her academically and in her professional development.

“The Blue Band has improved my ability to help aid a group and sometimes there are things that people need help on and don’t want to ask,” she said, noting her strengthened confidence in taking the lead in group projects.

Fitzpatrick first became interested in IST’s cybersecurity program through her older brother, who earned a degree in security and risk analysis from Penn State Harrisburg. When he was in school and then offered a full-time job, she learned more about his day-to-day work responsibilities as well as how important cybersecurity is as technology continues to advance and become more prominent in various aspects of daily life.

“I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the world and know what I did was helping people out,” she said. “After I took IST 140 and saw my brother’s accomplishments, I knew I wanted to go into cyber.”

At the College of IST, Fitzpatrick also has become involved with Women in IST (WIST) as a way to connect with other women in the college and in the field. She took on another leadership role in that organization, serving as treasurer.

“The overall cybersecurity field has grown exponentially in recent years and is one of the most in-demand majors to be in,” she said. “This industry is heavily dominated by men, so WIST is such a great place to connect with other women that may have the same experiences as you. WIST has also put me in a position to start to understand the big picture and work out issues with a team as you would working for a company.”

After graduation, Fitzpatrick hopes to explore a career with a government agency, but is keeping her possibilities open.

“There are so many different options to choose from when choosing a career field,” she said. “From banking, consulting and working with the government, the need for cybersecurity is everywhere and is only going to grow in time.”

She concluded, “The College of IST has set me up with confidence to feel like I am ready and prepared to go into the workforce.”

Last Updated November 21, 2021